PART OF THE WESTERN TERRITORY EXPLORED IN THE early 1800s by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Portland, Oregon, is still a region where the adventurous can forge new trails, says native Bill Mitchell. The 53-year-old is the founder of Merchant Concepts Inc., an industry-leading credit card and transaction processing firm with offices in Portland and Seattle. The Portland office, which is located in the city's trendy, gentrified Pearl District, counts Nordstrom, Ethan Allen, and La-Z-Boy among its clients. "If you've got the skills," Mitchell offers, "you can make it happen."
Known as the City of Roses, this Pacific Northwest city is home to more than 568,000 people; according to the Portland State University Population Research Center, more than 2.1 million residents call the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro area home. In a state with no sales tax, Portland has historically been a strong manufacturing town, and because of its access to the Pacific Ocean, commercial shipping continues to fuel the city's economy. In 2006, the Port of Portland, which includes four local airports, generated more than 30,000 jobs. A well-educated city, Portland is also a high-tech center and home to Intel Corp., one of its largest employers, and is positioning itself to become a major player in the solar energy market.
Portland is also emerging as a favorite on several...